Unawatuna, probably the best beach in the world
Trip Start Nov 08, 2003
74Trip End Oct 22, 2004
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Christmas Greetings to one and all in frosty old England from the two brown berries in scorching Sri Lanka.
Here we go with our last despatch before Xmas, and I'll make it as short as possible as you're all probably out spending a fortune on unwanted pressies, scribbling on charity Christmas cards to give to work colleagues you pretend you like, buying last-minute £5 Boots vouchers for relatives you never see, going to the cringeworthy company party you always dread, flicking through the Radio Times to see what Hugh Grant film is showing and legging down the offy to get the oh-so-important Warninks Advocaat for the cocktail cabinet.
Aaah, the joys of the festive season
It's been a hectic last 10 days as I write this from the Hotel Suisse in Kandy. We've got loads to report you'll be glad to hear (groan). But, as promised, I'll make this one short and semi-sweet, starting from Wednesday 10th December, and our four days at Unawatuna Beach.
Our transfer from Dickwella to Unawatuna took an hour, heading north along the southwestern coast road. Our driver, Lasantha, was a really nice young fellow-me-lad who we had met previously at Ladyhill in Galle. We had been 'chauffeured' by him before, and his van was really comfy with reclining seats (with arms!), ice-cool air-conditioning, slightly tinted windows a la Posh & Becks (more like Richard & Judy), boy-racer paintjob with Noddy and Big-Ears sounding horn and automatic gearbox, which, on these roads, is a must. Oh, and he smiled a lot, which was a novelty amongst other drivers.
So we decided to give him the dream job.
He was going to chauffeur us around Sri Lanka (well, the important bits) for 10 days, starting on the 14th and ending in Colombo on the 23rd
He named his price, and it sounded good to us. 35,000 Rupees, which would work out at about £20 a day. He would sort out his own accommodation and food, and would be at our beck and call every day. Some days he would be driving for 10 hours, so it was a bargain for us, but also a very nice paypacket for him, in time for Christmas (average wage here is £2 a day).
So off he went, and left us at The Thaproban Rooms, on the northern part of Unawatuna Beach.
We were shown to our ground-floor ocean-facing room, and because of the narrowness of the beach, the sea was only about fifteen feet away.
The room was pretty basic. I began ticking off the 3-point checklist in my mind.
1. Mossie net - yep
3. TV - oooooooh, close, but no cigar.
2 out of 3 wasn't bad, but after taking a sneaky look through our curtains, we realised we wouldn't be spending much time there.
We zipped open our bags and went straight for the 'beachwear' compartment. I pulled on my garish baggy hides-lumps-and-bumps shorts and wraparound shades. Soph went for the flowery see-you-from-a-mile-off sarong and black bikini-top look with shades perched on top of head.
We were ready to do 'THE BEACH WALK'.
Onto the beach we glided, looked up and down the beach in perfect unison to make sure no other posers were on our territory, adjusted our shades and decided to head north for our first walk-past.
We realised immediately, this beach had it all.
A perfect crescent of sand, fringed by, you guessed it, palm trees. Cute little beach bars, seafood restaurants (I'm actually on a seafood diet - see food, I eat it. God I love that joke). The clientele were a perfect mixture of 2.2 children families, young twenty-something couples, groups of chicks (although I didn't notice), groups of lads (not the San Antonio type, but studenty intellectuals), friendly golden-oldie couples, gap-year backpackers and Germans - well, nothing's perfect.
The water was quite choppy near the shoreline, but once past the waves, the sea was warm and calm. Snorkels were for hire and for the more adventurous there was the Unawatuna Diving Centre. Up market resorts mingled with £3-a-night guesthouses with not a hi-rise or electricity pylon in sight. Sun loungers and parasols were plentiful and only 30p a day. Not too many hawkers, and what there were, understood the phrase - no thanks.
Everyone lounged on their, er, loungers. We found a couple of sturdy looking examples and began to lounge ourselves.
Reading a book was the law on this beach. If you didn't have a book, you were branded a wierdo. The Sun and Mirror doesn't make it this far round the world, thank God (only just found out Saddam's been nabbed!) I pulled out my latest read, The Godfather by Mario Puzo. Neighbouring loungees clocked me, and lifted their books to cover their faces, nervously avoiding eye contact. Soph reached down for her novel, As The Crow Flies by Jailbird Archer. On seeing this, books were lowered and an audible giggle was mexican-waved along the beach.
Days would be spent turning on our kebab-spits, steadily cultivating our melanomas under the midday sun along with the other mad dogs. Nights would be spent at one of the many candlelit beachfront restaurants, with great names such as 'The Lucky Tuna' and 'The Happy Banana'. Sadly there wasn't 'The Exuberant Eel'. We'd eat strange looking fish accompanied by a paddy fields' worth of rice. To get to them, you would have to walk barefoot along the beach, which would have been really romantic for Soph - if she hadn't been with me.
After four days of sauna-like weather we had turned a gorgeous shade of red, and on our final night we treated ourselves to some expensive crustaceans in the Thaproban restaurant, funnily enough, with the same colouring as us. One and a half kilos of lobster (that's three big beauties in pounds, shillings and pence), all at the knock down price of £13, blowing our 27p a day food budget to smithereens. The perfect end to four perfect days, but we were now ready to hit the culture trail.
All will be revealed soon as I stay hunched over my typewriter next week, feverishly bashing the keys, with a packet of Gauloise and a Whisky Mac at my side.
And remember, if there's nothing on the box this yuletide, you can always print out my past travelogues and read them aloud with friends and family around an open fire, toasting marshmallows and reminiscing on the past six weeks. It sure beats charades.
Wishing you all a freezing cold Christmas and a dreary new year.
Gary the red nosed traveller & So-ho-ho-phie